Weekend Backpacker: Milwaukee

Milwaukee's Best Outdoor Escapes
  |  Gorp.com

Lakeshore rambles. Prairies teeming with flora and fauna. Pine and birch forests that come alive with brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange in autumn. Not to mention sweeping views of Wisconsin's pristine farmland and waterways—all within a three-hour drive from Milwaukee.

Many of Wisconsin's trails consist of former railway beds, which are ideal for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Wisconsin's rail-to-trail routes are linear in nature and include the Wild Goose Trail, the Ahnapee Trail, the Mountain Bay Trail, and the Military Ridge Trail.

Another highlight of Wisconsin hiking is the Ice Age Trail—the only national scenic trail devoted to a geological event. When the Wisconsin glacier retreated over 10,000 years ago, it left behind a plethora of geological markers, visible throughout the region to the trained eye. Following the terminal moraine left by the last glacier, the Ice Age Trail serves as a natural monument to Wisconsin's glacial heritage. This geological divide separates the glaciated northern and eastern portions of Wisconsin and the hilly, driftless area in the western third of the state. Excellent examples of Ice Age Trail hiking—kettles, moraines, and other glacial features —can be found in the north and south units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, both within an hour's drive from Milwaukee. When the Ice Age Trail is finished, it will offer more than 1,000 contiguous miles of trail, all in Wisconsin. About 600 miles of disjointed trail have been forged to date.

Finally, there's the lakeshore. A solid three-hour drive north of the city, on the Door County Peninsula, hikers will delight in a wilderness walk that combs the Lake Michigan shoreline as it loops its way through Newport State Park.

Not only are there plenty of hiking opportunities around Milwaukee, but chances to camp and swim abound with lakes and rivers running through most parks and forests.

These Milwaukee-area hikes are all easy to moderate and offer a scenic and serene view of Wisconsin's countryside. So load up your pack and hit the trail!

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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